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James is one of the major figures of trans-Atlantic literature, which is to say that his works frequently juxtapose characters from different worlds—the Old World (Europe), simultaneously artistic, corrupting, and alluring; and the New World (United States), where people are often brash, open, and assertive—and explore how this clash of personalities and cultures affects the two worlds.He favored internal, psychological drama, and his work is often about conflicts between imaginative protagonists and their difficult environments.
In addition to his sister, Alice, who was an accomplished diarist and prose stylist in her own right, his older brother, William James, was a famous American philosopher and psychologist.
Their father, the philosopher and theologian Henry James Sr., was a close friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and, with Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, was a noted New England Transcendantalist.
From an early age, James read, criticized and learned from the classics of English, American, French, Italian, German, and (in translation) Russian literature.
In 1864 he anonymously published his first short story, A Tragedy of Error, and from then on devoted himself completely to literature.
James never married, and it is an unresolved (and perhaps unresolvable) question as to whether he ever experienced a relationship.
Many of his letters are filled with expressions of affection, but it is never been shown conclusively that any of these expressions were acted out.James enjoyed socializing with his many friends and acquaintances, but he seems to have maintained a certain distance from other people.After a brief attempt to live in Paris, James moved permanently to England in 1876.The James family was one of the most productive intellectual families in the history of the United States, and Henry James was its most gifted literary stylist and innovator.Henry James was born in New York City into a wealthy, intellectually inclined family.The prose of James’s later works is frequently marked by long, digressive sentences that defer the verb and include many qualifying adverbs, prepositional phrases, and subordinate clauses.James seemed to change from a fairly straightforward style in his earlier writing to a more elaborate manner in his later works.As his secretary Theodora Bosanquet remarked in her monograph Henry James at Work: When he walked out of the refuge of his study and into the world and looked around him, he saw a place of torment, where creatures of prey perpetually thrust their claws into the quivering flesh of doomed, defenseless children of light….His novels are a repeated exposure of this wickedness, a reiterated and passionate plea for the fullest freedom of development, unimperilled by reckless and barbarous stupidity.His work gradually became more metaphorical and symbolic as he entered more deeply into the minds of his characters.In its intense focus on the consciousness of his major characters, James’s later work foreshadows extensive developments in twentieth century fiction.